The Supreme Court handed down only two decisions this morning, and once again, none of the blockbuster cases still outstanding for the term was among them. The Court announced it will return to the bench on Thursday, so that's the next opportunity for the justices to release either D.C. v. Heller (Second Amendment gun rights) or Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker (Exxon Valdez punitive damages) or Kennedy v. Louisiana (death penalty for non-homicide rape.) Fifteen decisions are yet to come before the term ends later this month.
Justice Anthony Kennedy was absent from the bench this morning, so Justice John Paul Stevens announced Kennedy's majority opinion in the immigration case Dada v. Mukasey. The ruling interprets the Immigration and Naturalization Act to make it easier for for an alien who has been deemed eligible for deportation to stay in the country and challenge that status, The other ruling, Florida Department of Revenue v. Piccadilly Cafeterias, was authored by Justice Clarence Thomas and hands a victory to states in a tax dispute involving federal bankruptcy law.
The Court also granted review in three cases, one of which has attracted a brief from three former attorneys general and two former FBI directors. The case is Ashcroft v. Iqbal, in which Javaid Iqbal, a Pakistani citizen is trying to hold former Attorney General John Ashcroft and other top federal officials personally liable for detaining him in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit denied the officials' claim of immunity. In an amicus brief by Richard Samp of the Washington Legal Foundation, former AGs William Barr, Edwin Meese III and Richard Thornburgh, and former FBI directors William Sessions and William Webster, support Ashcroft and assert the 2nd Circuit ruling restricts the qualified immunity doctrine "to such an extent that government officials will be unable to win pre-discovery dismissal of insubstantial constitutional claims."
Check back later at LegalTimes.com for more on today's Supreme Court action.